French environmental services group Veolia secured a win today in the on-going legal wrangling over its planned takeover of competitor Suez. The Judicial Court of Nanterre ruled that Veolia had not breached any information or consultation obligations toward Suez's employees. Accordingly the Court restored the rights associated with Veolia's shareholding in Suez of nearly 30 per cent effective immediately, Veolia announced on Wednesday after the Court handed down its verdict.
In early October 2020, Veolia purchased 29.9 per cent of Suez's shares from French utility Engie for around €3.4bn, and intends to achieve a full takeover of Suez by purchasing the remainder of its competitor's shares via a public offer. For its part, Suez's board of directors has done everything in its power to block a merger.
Days after the sale Suez works councils had secured an injunction from the judicial court of Paris suspending the "effects resulting from the transaction" until such time as the works councils had been informed and consulted as required under French law. That decision was upheld by the Paris Court of Appeal the following month.
Following today's ruling, Veolia said it "remains available to discuss with Suez employees on its merger project". The concern also confirmed "its determination to complete the creation of a world champion in ecological transformation".
Suez: Voting rights held by Veolia remain suspended in accordance with competition law
In a response appearing later in the evening, Suez noted that the court's decision was based on Veolia assurances that it would not file a "non-friendly" public offer. This step was only to be taken with prior approval from Suez's board of directors. " Therefore, Veolia is not in a position to file a tender offer."
The concern also recalled that "as a matter of principle, the voting rights of Veolia are suspended in application of European and UK competition law."
Suez also reiterated its wish to "enter into constructive discussion with Veolia on the basis of the solution backed by Ardian-GIP, to define a project that is respectful of all of the stakeholders and in line with their respective interests in order to strengthen both groups, with no dismantling of Suez".
The group of five trade unions representing Suez employees plan to appeal "immediately".